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This Candleflame Instant

This Candleflame Instant

As essence turns to ocean,
the particles glisten.

Watch how in this candleflame instant
blaze all the moments you have lived.

–Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks, A Year With Rumi, p 326)

I light a candle and I take a few deep breaths.  What can I write about when my inner world feels so turbulent?  I put a drop of frankincense essential oil in my palm, rub my hands together, cup my hands, breathe deeply. Frankincense has been used for centuries to assist people in reaching meditative states, calming the mind, purifying the air.  I pray that in this moment my life will make sense.

I watch the candle flickering, and I search for the words to express what I’m feeling.  Just a moment ago I was assailed by thoughts, now I’m drawing a blank.  What am I feeling?

Tired. Nothing else really comes to mind.  I haven’t had a night of deep, restful sleep since I began taking Wellbutrin on Tuesday; I’m jumpy, I continue to have a shorter fuse than I’d like, the physical exhaustion is making me foggy, it’s bringing me down.  I wonder if I made the right choice in taking this medication.  I wonder how long I’ll have to wait to find out if it is working for me or not.  I feel broken. Depleted. Empty.

A part of me wonders if at some point I’m going to break through the dark haze and remember the spark of divinity in me.   Just one spark is all that is needed to light the fire of awakening, but once lit, the fire must be tended.  My meditation practice is one way of tending this fire, but how much progress can I make when I’m fighting drowsiness at night, barely able to sit upright for fifteen minutes?  Has my fire gone out, and I’m just going through the motions of tending it, adding damp fuel on top of dying embers, not realizing the futility of my efforts?

It’s going on three years since I began my practice, and I ask how much has really changed in me?  Has anything changed?  There’s a cynic in me that says I have done all of this work for nothing.

Or perhaps my meditations really are having positive effects on my life, but the effects are so subtle that they cannot be easily grasped by my analytical mind?

Just for this moment, I will believe that I’m capable of transcending any difficulty with which I am faced. I will try to sit now, because this is what I have done for the last 926 days and in spite of the cynic, some part of me believes that this will help.

I hope to stay awake and aware, but I don’t have much fight in me right now.  If I begin to nod off, I’ll put myself to bed. Ok, here goes…

A spark is all that is needed to light the fire of awakening.

A spark is all that is needed to light the fire of awakening.

Before I Get Too Tired


It is 1:35pm, and I just got the kids in their rooms for “nap”– in quotes because napping isn’t really happening these days. It ends up being the kids playing by themselves in their rooms for an hour or two while I have one blessed moment to myself. A lot of the time I end up lying down and trying to catch some shut-eye, knowing that at any moment my daughter may interrupt my attempts to rest with breaking news of her latest toilet accomplishments.  And then there’s the ceaseless chatter issuing from her bedroom. Her stuffed animals have been very noisy lately. They have involved, often heated, conversations with each other, and they have little regard for my profound need to rest. I’ve stopped fighting. I don’t tell the stuffed animals to be quiet. I just let them have their conversations and try to sleep in spite of the noise.

I find myself typing here, trying to get my post of the day over with, so that I won’t have to worry about it later when I’m so tired that I can barely keep my eyes open. There is resistance in me to what I’m attempting to do here, and it’s strong, and loud, and intimidating. It pushes against me, tells me sleep is better than this baloney I’m smearing across the screen. It again says, “Why bother?”

Well, because I can. And, because I want to. 

I talked yesterday about the anchor of procrastination and the inner critic monster that accompany me whenever I attempt to write, and how heavy they are.  Today I have a different vision– of my creative self sobbing silently, sitting on the floor of a dungeon, back up against the cold stone wall, arms wrapped around knees, body curled in a little ball, head hung low. Creative self has been here a long time. It has nearly given up hope of ever seeing the light of day.

But lo, a candle flame appears at the end of the dank, dark hallway, and the someone carrying a candle is also carrying a key. Slow steps toward the prison door. Waiting, waiting. The face of the candle-bearer is cloaked in shadow–such a mystery–who has come to deliver this tired self from this awful place? The key turns softly in the lock, the door groans open on rusty hinges, a hand is extended to the prisoner who has waited so long.
Can my creative self get up and walk again, after so many moons of feeling bent and broken? At the moment of release, will the prison spring up again, so much bigger and deeper and darker than before? Trying to stand now, trying to take a step forward, learning to walk again, to leave this lonely place. Silently, the candle-bearer waits until the prisoner finds her legs and takes a few wobbly steps toward the door.


Many stair steps lead up to the light…each step takes great effort and the prisoner is feeling weak from hunger. She follows the candle flame, which appears dim and vulnerable in the encroaching blackness. One foot after the other, one by one by one…some day, some day I will be free.

Every time I show up to write a post, I reclaim a little bit more of the creative self that has been wasting away in my dungeon of procrastination, fear, and hopelessness.  I may find myself back in the dungeon after a brief moment out in the fresh air, but even so, the next time I may not wait so long to summon the one with the key, whoever that someone is.
Hmmm, who is this candle-bearer, and who is the despot that imprisoned me?